In search of a true Indian car brand

Mohit Ahuja, President, Gozoop Group and an automobile enthusiast, shares insights on evolutions and modifications of brands in the automobile sector

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Mohit Ahuja

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Delhi: I’ve frequently wondered whether the Indian automotive sector has birthed a genuine automobile marque. While we boast mega-corporate names like Maruti, Tata and Mahindra (and I'm inclined to regard Maruti Suzuki as an Indian brand, given its defining presence since the 80s), do we genuinely possess a cult car brand? Consider the likes of City, Civic, Accord, Mustang, Q3, Q5—all progressing through their distinct 'generations.’

The Indian automotive sector has consistently looked towards fresh monikers for their next generation of vehicles. Let me give you a few examples to illustrate what I mean. 

The Mahindra Armada – it is what looks like a 5-door version of the first generation of Thar (which itself was an evolution of various Mahindra vehicles). It is evident that the first Bolero was almost like the next gen of Armada and the old Scorpio would have been the evolved Bolero. 

Having observed the conspicuous stages of evolution and modifications, Mahindra did not name any of these vehicles Armada, instead, they were referred to as Bolero and Scorpio. It was only recently that the Scorpio – N came along as the new Scorpio, but almost as a fail-safe sales mechanism, the old Scorpio still sits alongside the Scorpio Classic. 

Recently, there has been chatter of the Armada nameplate coming back as a suffix for the 5-door Thar, but even if that is true, it is a name-plate come-back and not the evolution of a true brand. 

Even while there have been attempts to build the brand XUV, there were no focused efforts to save the XUV 500 or the TUV Monikers. It is indeed a great dilemma as to why the XUV 700 is not referred to as the new XUV 500. There is a sure attempt to protect sales in case the new version does not work. The Thar has the true becoming of a real brand from the Mahindra stable.

Even Maruti had a nameplate come-back in the Baleno. It did try to evolve the (erstwhile) brand Zen with the earlier MR Wagon and the product was labeled the Zen Estilo. But in the newer version of the Estilo, the Zen Moniker was dropped because industry ‘experts’ did not see the product as Zen, even though the first Zen itself was renamed Maurti Suzuki Alto. 

It is believed that the new Zen did not garner enough conviction within the company, sales for the Estilo went southwards, but that was perhaps a product issue and not necessarily a brand one. 

There's chatter about Tata gearing up to unveil the all-new Sierra, a prospect that invokes nostalgic sentiments for the earlier model. It'll be intriguing to observe how Tata navigates the evolution of all their recently introduced car brands. We're eagerly awaiting to witness the nth generation of Safari, Harrier, and Punch.

Force Motors, a niche player, has remained steadfast in its commitment to the Gurkha brand. However, in this instance, the evolution of the product hasn't been entirely smooth. While the earlier Gurkha featured a 5-door version, the new iteration does not. Additionally, the Gurkha still lacks an automatic transmission variant.

Now when you look at Honda and Toyota and VW, you see evolved products under the brands they have invested in. The City remains a force to reckon with even today. The Polo is a Polo even if it does not have a product in India currently (though it has its cousins in the Taigun and the Virtus). 

We anticipate witnessing the transformation of Indian car brands into genuine entities, no longer subordinate to their corporate overlords. This shift will ensure that when a company invests in the communication of a new brand, the expenditures are made with a long-term perspective, akin to prudent financial investments.